Planetary Dust Lab
The Planetary Dust Lab focuses on examination of non-terrestrial soils to determine their particle size distribution and specific surface area. Separation of soils into component size fractions also allows for examination of particles in the finest fractions of the soils. Particle subsamples with average diameters down to 2 micrometers can be separated in a contamination-free environment to ensure that the material does not interact with terrestrial oxygen.
The laboratory contains two glove boxes that allow samples from the Moon, Mars, or asteroids to be handled in pure nitrogen, greatly reducing the possibility of atmospheric contamination. Other specialized equipment includes an automated gas adsorption analyzer for specific surface area measurements (square meters per gram), and a laser-diffraction instrument for sample size distribution determinations.
The Planetary Dust lab also has two types of grinding devices - a ball-mill grinder and a jet-mill grinder. These allow the production of dust from coarser soil for special research projects.